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Lara Patangan shares an excerpt from her new book that celebrates the sacred satisfaction we can experience through acts of service.

I wrote Simple Mercies: How the Works of Mercy Bring Peace and Fulfillment because I wanted to show that our everyday compassion makes a difference in exponential ways. Too many of us believe that our service is too insignificant to matter. I felt so bombarded with the messages of the world that tell us we need to do more to matter, that I missed out on ways to worship God as an organic part of daily life. The works of mercy aren’t just another gimmick. They are game changers. When I tried these works of mercy as an alternative to the creed of the secular world, I found less striving, less busying, less dissatisfaction, less emptiness, and more time for my relationship with God, my family, and the people I love. Mostly, through God’s mercy, I found myself.

20210518 LPatangan Simple Mercies

I want others to see themselves and their neighbors through the merciful eyes of Jesus, too. I want them to know the sacred satisfaction that can come from even the simplest act of service and the redemption available to all of us through God’s extravagant mercy. It’s my hope that this book can show others how to experience peace during everyday life even when it includes service through endless piles of laundry, menial tasks, and the mess and mistakes inherent in life. Mostly, I hope it brings them the same kind of peace it has brought me to begin to understand how much even our simplest mercies matters.

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The works of mercy aren’t just another gimmick. They are game changers. #catholicmom

This excerpt is from Chapter One: Feed the Hungry

Sometime in my late twenties, I lamented that I was having a premature mid-life crisis. Absurdly, this originated with the Olympic games. I loved watching gymnastics and couldn’t help but think that I should be in a leotard flipping and flopping and flying on behalf of my country. Never mind that I had never taken gymnastics in my life. My heart ached to do something with so much passion that it would literally propel me skyward. Plus, I liked the sequins.

At the time, I had a house, some cats, a dog, a good husband, and an inherently meaningful job as a fundraiser for a children’s hospital. And yet, I had this nagging feeling that I was meant for more. This question of purpose arises intermittently like a bad stomach virus that leaves me longing for the merciful reprieve of a saltine cracker. The search for meaning in my life seems as if it should propel me over obstacles, until I dismount into some profound contribution to humanity, landing with triumph (and yes, maybe even a gold medal). Instead, this quest for meaning throws me off-balance, like a gymnast teetering on the brink of a disastrous fall, leaving me more frustrated than fulfilled. Since my twenties, I have experienced this same desire for purpose multiple times. The great mercy in this search is that I finally realize our contributions to the world aren’t always noticeable — even to ourselves.

Recently, a friend who has had a meaningful impact on my spiritual life confided that she feels as if she should be doing something more or different with her life. I understand this emptiness. It’s that inherent longing to make a difference, to make our lives count, and to find meaning brilliant enough to shine through the cloud of mundanity that we perceive as life’s ordinariness. Yet, no life is ordinary, and your purpose has nothing to do with worldly accomplishments. It is to love and serve God and your neighbor. It is to surrender your expectations and be open and obedient to his.

While desire for purpose is the source of one of the great aches of our hunger, genuine purpose has little to do with what we do and everything to do with how we love. My friend’s unwavering trust in God has made my own trust in him grow. As a result of her example, I pray the Rosary daily. I may never see the difference that makes in the world, but I trust that the ripple of what she taught me will spread beyond what either of us will ever see. When I think of that, the question of purpose doesn’t seem like it should command so much of the spotlight. It’s the answer of love that’s the real showstopper. May you love like you have sequins on.


Simple Mercies is published by Our Sunday Visitor and is available for preorder on Amazon.com.

Copyright 2021 Lara Patangan
Image: Canva Pro
Excerpt from Simple Mercies is shared here with the kind permission of the publisher, Our Sunday Visitor. All rights reserved.